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The Eighteenth Brumaire

of Louis Bonaparte
Karl Marx
ELECBOOK CLASSICS

The 18th Brumaire


of Louis Bonaparte
Karl Marx

ISBN 1 84327 100 1

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Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte 4

ENGELS’ PREFACE TO THE


THIRD GERMAN EDITION

T
he fact that a new edition of the Eighteenth Brumaire has
become necessary, thirty-three years after its first appearance,
proves that even today this little book has lost none of its value.
It was indeed a work of genius. Immediately after the event that
struck the whole political world like a thunderbolt from the blue, that
was condemned by at by all and understood by none—immediately after
this event Marx appeared with a concise, epigrammatic exposition that
laid bare the whole course of French history since those February days in
its inner some with loud cries of moral indignation and accepted by
others as a salvation from the revolution and a punishment for its errors,
but was only wondered connection, reduced the miracle of December 21
to a natural, necessary result of this connection and, in so doing, did not
even need to treat the hero of the coup d’état otherwise than with the
contempt he so well deserved. And the picture was drawn with such a
masterly hand that every fresh disclosure since made has only provided
fresh proof of how faithfully it reflects reality. This eminent
understanding of the living history of the day, this clear-sighted
appreciation of events at the moment they occur, is indeed without
parallel.

1
On December 2, 1851 a counter-revolutionary coup d'état in France was
carried out by Louis Bonaparte and his adherents
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Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte 5

But this also called for Marx’s thorough knowledge of French history.
France is the land where, more than anywhere else, historical class
struggles were each time fought out to a decision and where,
consequently, the changing political forms within which they move and
in which their results are condensed have been stamped in the sharpest
outlines. The focus of feudalism in the Middle Ages, the model country
of unified estate monarchy since the Renaissance,2 France demolished
feudalism in the Great Revolution and established the unalloyed rule of
the bourgeoisie in a classical purity unequalled by any other European
land. And the struggle of the rising proletariat against the ruling
bourgeoisie manifested itself here in an acute form unknown elsewhere.
This was the reason why Marx not only studied the past history of
France with particular predilection, but also followed her current history
in every detail, collected material for future use and was consequently
never surprised by events.
But there was yet another circumstance. It was the very same Marx
who had first discovered the great law of motion of history, the law
according to which all historical struggles, whether they proceed in the
political, religious, philosophical or some other ideological domain, are
in fact only the more or less clear expression of struggles between social
classes, and that the existence and thereby the collisions, too, of these
classes are in turn conditioned by the degree of development of their

2
Renaissance—a period in the cultural and ideological development of a
number of countries in Western and Central Europe called forth by the
emergence of capitalist relations, which covers the second half of the 15th and
the 16th century. This period is usually associated with a rapid development in
the arts and sciences and the revival of interest in the culture of classical Greece
and Rome (hence the name of the period)
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Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte 6

economic position, by the nature and mode of their production and of


their exchange as determined by it. This law, which has the same
significance for history as the law of the transformation of energy has for
natural science this law gave him here, too, the key to understanding the
history of the Second French Republic.3 He put his law to the test on
these historical events, and even after thirty-three years we must still say
that it has stood the test brilliantly.
FE.
Written in the first half of 1885
First published in: Karl Marx, Der Achtzehnte Brumaire des Louis Bonaparte, Hamburg,
1885

3
The Second Republic existed in France from 1848 to 1852. For Marx's
description of this period see The Class Struggles in France, 1848 to 1850 and
The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.
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Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte 7

THE EIGHTEENTH
BRUMAIRE OF LOUIS
BONAPARTE

H
egel remarks somewhere that all facts and personages of great
importance in world history occur, as it were, twice. He forgot
to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.
Caussidière for Danton, Louis Blanc for Robespierre, the Montagne of
1848 to 1851 for the Montagne of 1793 to 1795,4 the Nephew for the
Uncle. And the same caricature occurs in the circumstances attending
the second edition of the eighteenth Brumaire!5
Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they
please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves,
but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted
from the past. The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a
nightmare on the brain of the living. And just when they seem engaged
in revolutionising themselves and things, in creating something that has

4
The Montagne (1793-95)—a revolutionary-democratic group in the
National Convention during the French Revolution.
5
Brumaire—a month in the French republican calendar. The eighteenth
Brumaire (November 9, 1799)—the coup d'etat which took place on this day
and resulted in the establishment of Napoleon Bonaparte's military dictatorship.
By "the second edition of the eighteenth Brumaire" Marx means the coup d'état
of December 2, 1851.
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Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte 8

never yet existed, precisely in such periods of revolutionary crisis they


anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service and borrow
from them names, battle-cries and costumes in order to present the new
scene of world history in this time-honoured disguise and this borrowed
language. Thus Luther donned the mask of the Apostle Paul, the
revolution of 1789 to 1814 draped itself alternately as the Roman
Republic and the Roman Empire, and the revolution of 1848 knew
nothing better to do than to parody, now 1789, now the revolutionary
tradition of 1793 to 1795. In like manner a beginner who has learnt a
new language always translates it back into his mother tongue, but he
has assimilated the spirit of the new language and can freely express
himself in it only when he finds his way in it without recalling the old
and forgets his native tongue in the use of the new.
Consideration of this world-historical necromancy reveals at once a
salient difference. Camille Desmoulins, Danton, Robespierre, Saint-Just,
Napoleon, the heroes as well as the parties and the masses of the old
French Revolution, performed the task of their time in Roman costume
and with Roman phrases, the task of unchaining and setting up modern
bourgeois society. The first ones knocked the feudal basis to pieces and
mowed off the feudal heads which had grown on it. The other created
inside France the conditions under which free competition could first be
developed, parcelled landed property exploited and the unchained
industrial productive forces of the nation employed; and beyond the
French borders he everywhere swept the feudal institutions away, so far
as was necessary to furnish bourgeois society in France with a suitable
up-to-date environment on the European Continent. The new social
formation once established, the antediluvian Colossi disappeared and
with them resurrected Romanity—the Brutuses, Gracchi, Publicolas, the
tribunes, the senators, and Caesar himself. Bourgeois society in its sober
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Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte 9

reality had begotten its true interpreters and mouthpieces in the Says,
Cousins, Royer-Collards, Benjamin Constants and Guizots; its real
commanders sat behind the counter, and the hogheaded Louis XVIII was
its political chief. Wholly absorbed in the production of wealth and in
peaceful competitive struggle, it no longer comprehended that ghosts
from the days of Rome had watched over its cradle. But unheroic as
bourgeois society is, it nevertheless took heroism, sacrifice, terror, civil
war and battles of peoples to bring it into being. And in the classically
austere traditions of the Roman Republic its gladiators found the ideals
and the art forms, the self-deceptions that they needed in order to
conceal from themselves the bourgeois limitations of the content of their
struggles and to maintain their passion on the high plane of great
historical tragedy. Similarly, at another stage of development, a century
earlier, Cromwell and the English people had borrowed speech, passions
and illusions from the Old Testament for their bourgeois revolution.6
When the real aim had been achieved, when the bourgeois
transformation of English society had been accomplished, Locke
supplanted Habakkuk.
Thus the resurrection of the dead in those revolutions served the
purpose of glorifying the new struggles, not of parodying the old; of
magnifying the given task in imagination, not of fleeing from its solution
in reality; of finding once more the spirit of revolution, not of making its
ghost walk about again.
From 1848 to 1851 only the ghost of the old revolution walked
about, from Marrast, the républicain en gants jaunes, [republican in
yellow gloves] who disguised himself as the old Bailly, down to the
adventurer who hides his commonplace repulsive features under the iron

6
This refers to the English bourgeois revolution of the 17th century.
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Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte 10

death mask of Napoleon. An entire people, which had imagined that by


means of a revolution it had imparted to itself an accelerated power of
motion, suddenly finds itself set back into a defunct epoch and, in order
that no doubt as to the relapse may be possible, the old dates arise
again, the old chronology, the old names, the old edicts, which had long
become a subject of antiquarian erudition, and the old myrmidons of the
law, who had seemed long decayed. The nation feels like that mad
Englishman in Bedlam7 who fancies that he lives in the times of the
ancient Pharaohs and daily bemoans the hard labour that he must
perform in the Ethiopian mines as a gold digger, immured in this
subterranean prison, a dimly burning lamp fastened to his head, the
overseer of the slaves behind him with a long whip, and at the exits a
confused welter of barbarian mercenaries, who understand neither the
forced labourers in the mines nor one another, since they speak no
common language. “And all this is expected of me,” sighs the mad
Englishman, “of me, a freeborn Briton, in order to make gold for the old
Pharaohs.” “In order to pay the debts of the Bonaparte family,” sighs the
French nation. The Englishman, so long as he was in his right mind,
could not get rid of the fixed idea of making gold. The French, so long as
they were engaged in revolution, could not get rid of the memory of
Napoleon, as the election of December 108 proved. They hankered to
return from the perils of revolution to the fleshpots of Egypt, 9 and

7
Bedlam—a lunatic asylum in London.
8
On December 10, 1848 Louis Bonaparte was elected President of the
French Republic by a majority vote.
9
As the Bible has it (Exodus 16:3), during the exodus of the Jews from
Egypt the fainthearted among them, depressed by the difficulties of the journey
and by hunger, began to sigh for the days spent in captivity when they at least
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Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte 11

December 2, 1851 was the answer. They have not only a caricature of
the old Napoleon, they have the old Napoleon himself, caricatured as he
must appear in the middle of the nineteenth century.
The social revolution of the nineteenth century cannot draw its poetry
from the past, but only from the future. It cannot begin with itself before
it has stripped off all superstition about the past. Earlier revolutions
required recollections of past world history in order to dull themselves to
their own content. In order to arrive at its own content, the revolution of
the nineteenth century must let the dead bury their dead. There the
words went beyond the content; here the content goes beyond the
words.
The February revolution was a surprise attack, a taking of the old
society unawares, and the people proclaimed this unexpected coup de
main as a deed of historic importance, ushering in the new epoch. On
December 2 the February revolution is conjured away by a cardsharper’s
trick, and what seems overthrown is no longer the monarchy but the
liberal concessions that were wrung from it by centuries of struggle.
Instead of society having conquered a new content for itself, it seems
that the state only returned to its oldest form, to the shamelessly simple
domination of the sabre and the cowl. This is the answer to the coup de
main of February 1848, given by the coup de tête of December 1851.
Easy come, easy go. Meanwhile the intervening time has not passed by
unused. During the years 1848 to 1851 French society made up, and
that by an abbreviated because revolutionary method, for the studies
and experiences which, in a regular, so to speak, textbook course of
development, would have had to precede the February revolution, if it

had something to eat. The expression. "to sigh for the fleshpots of Egypt"
became a proverb.
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Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte 12

was to be more than a ruffling of the surface. Society now seems to have
fallen back behind its point of departure; it has in truth first to create for
itself the revolutionary point of departure, the situation, the relations, the
conditions under which alone modern revolution becomes serious.
Bourgeois revolutions, like those of the eighteenth century, storm
swiftly from success to success, their dramatic effects outdo each other,
men and things seem set in sparkling brilliants, ecstasy is the everyday
spirit, but they are short-lived, soon they have attained their zenith, and
a long crapulent depression seizes society before it learns soberly to
assimilate the results of its storm-and-stress period. On the other hand,
proletarian revolutions, like those of the nineteenth century, criticise
themselves constantly, interrupt themselves continually in their own
course, come back to the apparently accomplished in order to begin it
afresh, deride with unmerciful thoroughness the inadequacies,
weaknesses and paltrinesses of their first attempts, seem to throw down
their adversary only in order that he may draw new strength from the
earth and rise again, more gigantic, before them, and recoil again and
again from the indefinite prodigiousness of their own aims, until a
situation has been created which makes all turning back impossible, and
the conditions themselves cry out:

Hic Rhodus, hic salta!


Here is the rose, here dance!10

10
Hic Rhodus, hic salta! (“Here is Rhodes, leap here!"—meaning: here is
the main point, now show us what you can do!)—words addressed to a
swaggerer (in a fable by Aesop, "The Boasting Traveller") who claimed that he
had made tremendous leaps in Rhodes.
Here is the rose, here dance! —a paraphrase of the preceding quotation (in
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Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte 13

For the rest, every fairly competent observer, even if he had not
followed the course of French development step by step, must have had
a presentiment that an unheard-of fiasco was in store for the revolution.
It was enough to hear the self-complacent howl of victory with which
Messieurs the Democrats congratulated each other on the beneficial
consequences of the second Sunday in May 1852.11 In their minds the
second Sunday in May 1852 had become a fixed idea, a dogma, like the
day on which Christ should reappear and the millennium begin, in the
minds of the Chiliasts.12 As ever, weakness had taken refuge in a belief
in miracles, fancied the enemy overcome when it had only conjured him
away in imagination, and lost all understanding of the present in a
passive glorification of the future in store for it and of the deeds it had in
petto [in reserve] but which it merely did not want as yet to make
public. Those heroes who seek to disprove their proven incapacity by
offering each other their sympathy and getting together in a crowd had
tied up their bundles, collected their laurel wreaths in advance and were
just then engaged in discounting on the exchange market the republics

Greek Rhodes, the name of an island, also means "rose") used by Hegel in the
preface to his work Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts (Principles of the
Philosophy of Law).
11
1n May 1852 Louis Bonaparte’s term of office as President expired.
Under the French Constitution of 1848, presidential elections were to be held
every four years on the second Sunday in May, and the outgoing President could
not stand for re-election.
12
Chiliasts (from the Greek word chilias, a thousand)—preachers of a
mystical religious doctrine that Christ would come to earth a second time and
usher in a "millennium" of universal equality, justice and well-being.
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Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte 14

in partibus13 for which they had already providently organised the


government personnel with all the calm of their unassuming disposition.
December 2 struck them like a thunderbolt from a clear sky, and the
peoples that in periods of pusillanimous depression gladly let their
inward apprehension be drowned out by the loudest bawlers will have
perhaps convinced themselves that the times are past when the cackle
of geese could save the Capitol.14
The Constitution, the National Assembly, the dynastic parties, the
blue and the red republicans, the heroes of Africa,15 the thunder from the
platform, the sheet lightning of the daily press, the entire literature, the
political names and the intellectual reputations, the civil law and the
penal code, the liberté, egalité, fraternité and the second Sunday in
May 1852—all has vanished like a phantasmagoria before the spell of a
man whom even his enemies do not make out to be a magician.

13
In partibus infidelium (literally, in parts inhabited by infidels)—an
addition to the title of Roman Catholic bishops holding purely nominal dioceses
in non-Christian countries. This expression is frequently used in Marx's and
Engels' writings to describe émigré governments formed abroad without taking
into consideration the real situation in a country.
14
The Capitol—a temple of Jupiter on a hill in Rome, which was a citadel.
According to legend in 390 B.C., during the Gallic invasion, Rome was saved
only thanks to the cackle of geese from the temple of Juno which awoke the
sleeping guards of the Capitol.
15
The dynastic parties—the Legitimists and the Orleanists
The blue republicans—bourgeois republicans; red republicans-democrats
and socialists of various trends.
The heroes of Africa—Generals Cavaignac, Lamoricière and Bedeau, who
took an active part in the colonial wars in Algeria.
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Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte 15

Universal suffrage seems to have survived only for a moment, in order


that with its own hand it may make its last will and testament before the
eyes of all the world and declare in the name of the people itself: “All
that comes to birth is fit for overthrow, as nothing worth. [Goethe, Faust,
Act I, Scene III, “Faust’s Study”]
It is not enough to say, as the French do, that their nation was taken
unawares. A nation and a woman are not forgiven the unguarded hour in
which the first adventurer that came along could violate them. The riddle
is not solved by such turns of speech, but merely formulated differently.
It remains to be explained how a nation of thirty-six million can be
surprised and delivered unresisting into captivity by three swindlers.
Let us recapitulate in general outline the phases that the French
Revolution went through from February 24, 1848 to December 1851.
Three main periods are unmistakable: the February period; May 4,
1848 to May 28, 1849: the period of the constitution of the republic
or of the Constituent National Assembly; May 28, 1849 to December
2, 1851: the period of the constitutional republic or of the Legislative
National Assembly.
The first period, from February 24, or the overthrow of Louis
Philippe, to May 4, 1848, the meeting of the Constituent Assembly, the
February period proper, may be described as the prologue to the
revolution. Its character was officially expressed in the fact that the
government improvised by it declared itself that it was provisional and,
like the government, everything that was mooted, attempted or
enunciated during this period proclaimed itself to be only provisional.
Nothing and nobody ventured to lay claim to the right of existence and of
real action. All the elements that had prepared or determined the

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Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte 16

revolution, the dynastic opposition,16 the republican bourgeoisie, the


democratic-republican petty bourgeoisie and the Social-Democratic
workers, provisionally found their place in the February government.
It could not be otherwise. The February days originally aimed at an
electoral reform, by which the circle of the politically privileged among
the possessing class itself was to be widened and the exclusive domina-
tion of the finance aristocracy overthrown. When it came to the actual
conflict, however, when the people mounted the barricades, the National
Guard maintained a passive attitude, the army offered no serious resist-
ance and the monarchy ran away, the republic appeared to be a matter
of course. Every party construed it in its own way. Having secured it
arms in hand, the proletariat impressed its stamp upon it and
proclaimed it to be a social republic. There was thus indicated the
general content of the modern revolution, a content which was in most
singular contradiction to everything that, with the material available,
with the degree of education attained by the masses, under the given
circumstances and relations, could be immediately realised in practice.
On the other hand, the claims of all the remaining elements that had
collaborated in the February revolution were recognised by the lion’s
share that they obtained in the government. In no period do we,
therefore, find a more confused mixture of high-flown phrases and actual
uncertainty and clumsiness, of more enthusiastic striving for innovation
and more thorough domination of the old routine, of more apparent

16
The dynastic opposition —an opposition group in the French Chamber of
Deputies during the July monarchy (1830-48). The group, headed by Odilon
Barrot, expressed the views of the liberal industrial and commercial bourgeoisie
and favoured a moderate electoral reform, which they regarded as a means of
preventing a revolution and preserving the Orleans dynasty.
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Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte 17

harmony of the whole of society and more profound estrangement of its


elements. While the Paris proletariat still revelled in the vision of the
wide prospects that had opened before it and indulged in earnest
discussions on social problems, the old forces of society had grouped
themselves, rallied, reflected and found unexpected support in the mass
of the nation, the peasants and petty bourgeois, who all at once stormed
on to the political stage, after the barriers of the July monarchy had
fallen.17
The second period, from May 4, 1848 to the end of May 1849, is
the period of the constitution, the foundation, of the bourgeois republic.
Directly after the February days not only had the dynastic opposition
been surprised by the republicans and the republicans by the Socialists,
but all France by Paris. The National Assembly, which met on May 4,
1848, had emerged from the national elections and represented the
nation. It was a living protest against the aspirations of the February
days and was to reduce the results of the revolution to the bourgeois
scale. In vain the Paris proletariat, which immediately grasped the
character of this National Assembly, attempted on May 15, 18 a few days
after it met, forcibly to negate its existence, to dissolve it, to disintegrate
again into its constituent parts the organic form in which the proletariat

17
The July monarchy—-a period of the reign of Louis Philippe (1830-48),
which derived its name from the July revolution.
18 On May 15, 1848 during a popular demonstration Paris workers and
artisans forced their way into the hall where the Constituent Assembly was in
session, proclaimed it dissolved and formed a revolutionary government. The
demonstrators, however, were soon dispersed by the National Guard and troops
which came to the rescue. The leaders of the workers (Blanqui, Barbès, Albert,
Raspail and others) were arrested.
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Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte 18

was threatened by the reacting spirit of the nation. As is known, May 15


had no other result save that of removing Blanqui and his comrades,
that is, the real leaders of the proletarian party, from the public stage for
the entire duration of the cycle we are considering.
The bourgeois monarchy of Louis Philippe can be followed only by a
bourgeois republic, that is to say, whereas a limited section of the
bourgeoisie ruled in the name of the king, the whole of the bourgeoisie
will now rule on behalf of the people. The demands of the Paris
proletariat are utopian nonsense, to which an end must be put. To this
declaration of the Constituent National Assembly the Paris proletariat
replied with the June insurrection,19 the most colossal event in the
history of European civil wars. The bourgeois republic triumphed. On its
side stood the finance aristocracy, the industrial bourgeoisie, the middle
class, the petty bourgeois, the army, the lumpenproletariat organised as
the Mobile Guard, the intellectuals, the clergy and the rural population.
On the side of the Paris proletariat stood none but itself. More than
3,000 insurgents were butchered after the victory, and 15,000 were
deported without trial. With this defeat the proletariat recedes into the
background of the revolutionary stage. It attempts to press forward again
on every occasion, as soon as the movement appears to make a fresh
start, but with ever decreased expenditure of strength and always
slighter results. As soon as one of the social strata situated above it gets
into revolutionary ferment, the proletariat enters into an alliance with it
and so shares all the defeats that the different parties suffer, one after

19
The reference is to the heroic insurrection of the Paris workers on June
23-26, 1848, which was suppressed by the French bourgeoisie with extreme
brutality. This insurrection was the first great civil war between the proletariat
and the bourgeoisie.-
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Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte 19

another. But these subsequent blows become the weaker, the greater
the surface of society over which they are distributed. The more
important leaders of the proletariat in the Assembly and in the press
successively fall victim to the courts, and ever more equivocal figures
come to head it. In part it throws itself into doctrinaire experiments,
exchange banks and workers’ associations, hence into a movement in
which it renounces the revolutionising of the old world by means of the
latter’s own great, combined resources, and seeks, rather to achieve its
salvation behind society’s back, in private fashion, within its limited
conditions of existence, and hence necessarily suffers shipwreck. It
seems to be unable either to rediscover revolutionary greatness in itself
or to win new energy from the connections newly entered into, until all
classes with which it contended in June themselves lie prostrate beside
it. But at least it succumbs with the honours of the great, world-historic
struggle; not only France, but all Europe trembles at the June
earthquake, while the ensuing defeats of the upper classes are so
cheaply bought that they require barefaced exaggeration by the
victorious party to be able to pass for events at all, and become the more
ignominious the further the defeated party is from the proletarian party.
The defeat of the June insurgents, to be sure, had indeed prepared
and levelled the ground on which the bourgeois republic could be
founded and built up, but it had shown at the same time that in Europe
the questions at issue are other than that of “republic or monarchy”. It
had revealed that here bourgeois republic signifies the unlimited
despotism of one class over other classes. It had proved that in countries
with an old civilisation, with a developed formation of classes, with
modern conditions of production and with an intellectual consciousness
in which all traditional ideas have been dissolved by the work of
centuries, the republic signifies in general only the political form of the
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Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte 20

revolutionising of bourgeois society and not its conservative form of life,


as, for example, in the United States of North America, where, though
classes already exist, they have not yet become fixed, but continually
change and interchange their component elements in constant flux,
where the modern means of production, instead of coinciding with a
stagnant surplus population, rather compensate for the relative
deficiency of heads and hands, and where, finally, the feverish, youthful
movement of material production, which has to make a new world its
own, has left neither time nor opportunity for abolishing the old spirit
world.
During the June days all classes and parties had united in the Party
of Order against the proletarian class as the Party of Anarchy, of
socialism, of communism. They had “saved” society from “the enemies
of society”. They had given out the watch-words of the old society,
“property, family, religion, order”, to their army as passwords and had
proclaimed to the counter-revolutionary crusaders: “By this sign thou
shalt conquer!”20 From this moment, as soon as one of the numerous
parties which had gathered under this sign against the June insurgents
seeks to hold the revolutionary battlefield in its own class interest, it
goes down before the cry: “Property, family, religion, order.” Society is
saved just as often as the circle of its rulers contracts, as a more
exclusive interest is maintained against a wider one. Every demand of
the simplest bourgeois financial reform, of the most ordinary liberalism,

20
An allusion to a legend according to which the Roman Emperor
Constantine (274-337) on the eve of a battle against his rival Maxentius in 312
Saw in the sky the sign of the Cross and over it the words: "By this sign thou
shalt conquer!" With this legend the Church links Constantine’s conversion from
the persecutor of the Christians to their protector.
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Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte 21

of the most formal republicanism, of the most shallow democracy, is


simultaneously castigated as an “attempt on society” and stigmatised as
“socialism”. And, finally, the high priests of “religion and order”
themselves are driven with kicks from their Pythian tripods,21 hauled out
of their beds in the darkness of night, put in prison-vans, thrown into
dungeons or sent into exile; their temple is razed to the ground, their
mouths are sealed, their pens broken, their law torn to pieces in the
name of religion, of property, of the family, of order. Bourgeois fanatics
for order are shot down on their balconies by mobs of drunken soldiers,
their domestic sanctuaries profaned, their houses bombarded for
amusement—in the name of property, of the family, of religion and of
order. Finally, the scum of bourgeois society forms the holy phalanx of
order and the hero Krapülinski [One of the heroes of Heine’s poem “Zwei
Ritter” (Romanzero). Here Marx alludes to Louis Bonaparte.] installs
himself in the Tuileries as the “saviour of society”.

21
Pythia, a Greek oracle and priestess in the temple of Apollo at Delphi who
is said to have proclaimed her prophecies from a special tripod.
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